The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

What I’ve Been Reading: Closing the Attitude Gap

This week, I read “Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success” by Baruti Kafele. It was an outstanding reminder of how important relationships are with students, and was also a nice source of inspiration as I work to “Overcome October.” If you pick up a copy, or if my post is enough of a summary, please plan to join me and the rest of my friends from #edfocus on Twitter when the author, Principal Kafele joins us for a chat on November 18 at 8:30 pm EST.

What I learned:
The attitude gap is the gap between those who have the will to strive for academic excellence and those who do not. 

Closing the attitude gap requires:
– The right climate (mood) and culture (lifestyle) of a classroom/school are vital to closing the attitude gap. In looking at climate and culture, we must ask “what do students see, hear, feel, and experience” in their classroom/school.
– To close the attitude gap, we must examine our attitude toward students (do I believe in them?), our relationships with students (do I know them?), our compassion for students (do I care about them?), our environment for learning (do I provide my students with an environment of excellence?), and the relevance in our instruction (do I realize who my students are?)
– We must ask ourselves three questions: “who am I?” “what am I about?” and “what is my recent evidence showing who I am and what I am about?”
– You must articulate that you believe in your students.
– As the principal, I am the number one determinant of student success or failure at Oakview Middle School. Our teachers must say the same for their classrooms. 
– Know the difference between rules and expectations. 
– Post your mission statement. Say it daily. 
– Students can create a formal, 1 page goal chart. Focused on the questions “where am I,” and “where am I going?” 
– You must know your students stories.

Quotes that resonated with me:
“Show me a school where relationships do not exist and I’ll show you an underperforming school.”
“It is still incumbent upon you to take the initative to learn about your students’ lives outside of school, as it has direct implications for what they do inside school.” 
“You are the authority of the room with your name on it. What will you do with that authority?”
“It is imperative that you, too, have empathy for your students. They don’t need you to feel sorry for them; they simply need you to understand them and to use that understanding to push them to previously unimagined heights.” 

Key takeaway:
For at-risk students to succeed, they must believe they can. Self-efficacy is the first step toward closing the attitude and achievement gap.

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